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May 22, 2013

McAuley aiming higher next season

Gareth McAuley believes West Bromwich Albion's targets will be higher for the 2013-14 season after a disappointing end to the campaign.

• Evans: Stunning finish
• Lukaku: Future not in my hands

The Northern Ireland international ended his second season at The Hawthorns by dominating the club's Player of the Year awards and signing a new two-year contract but wants the team to maintain their form throughout the whole campaign next time around..

"Hopefully we can keep it going through the whole of the season next time rather than just the first half or two-thirds," he told the club's official website.

"We have not been as good in the second half of this season and we could have finished higher. We've had a few injuries but we'll probably set the same target when we come back for training.

"I just want to progress...that's my target; to do better. It seems like an eternity since we got to 40 points and we're kicking ourselves for not reaching 50."

McAuley turns 34 at the end of this year and insists he never seriously considered moving on, although his negotiations over a new deal dragged on until a happy conclusion was announced last Friday.

"The talks were progressing all along and I'm delighted it has all been put to bed now," he added. "I really had no thoughts of going anywhere else.

"I had next year on my contract anyway, so there wasn't much pressure, but now I'm looking forward to coming in fresh pre-season.

"I started later than most in the game and didn't have the rigours of academy football, thinking about the game 24/7, so I might have been lucky that way.

"I possibly had a greater appreciation for the game and have been able to use that to my advantage."

Romelu Lukaku's continued success, culminating in his hat-trick in the 5-5 draw against Manchester United, has increased the chances of McAuley having to play against him rather than with him next term.

It seems inconceivable that Chelsea, under new management, will not at least take a good look at the Belgian striker before deciding whether to let him out on loan again.

But McAuley has not given up hope on the Baggies benefiting from him a while longer.

"He likes it here and if Chelsea don't want him (yet), he will come here and score 20-plus [goals]," he said. "He has been a force for us, a great talent. Everyone will be after him next season."

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